Friday-Sunday, 26-28 August 1955
This is the second draft of a letter begun some days ago, & is in pencil mainly because my pen chooses the most inopportune times to run out of ink.
The other letter was a detailed description of my trip to Washington, & sounded more as though it was a travelogue than a letter. Also, like Aunt Maude, I have a habit of beginning with the dessert & making my way back to the appetizer.
Life in Barracks "C" is not, to put it mildly, pleasant. It is composed of mess-cooks (how aptly named!), & men fresh out of the brig awaiting orders. I never got more than 6 hours sleep a night, with one thing & another. During the day we were kept amused by sweeping, swabbing, & polishing. At night (& occasionally during the day) we were allowed to stand watches. And night before last, we were all highly pleased by a Gestapo raid at four in the morning—police all over the place, searching for concealed weapons. They did find one or two innocent hunting knives; their owners moved quickly to Barracks "K"—the brig.
So, this morning it came as a great surprise to be called upon to check out. I was handed one of those little oblong cards with holes punched in it, reminding me of an office building at night with some of its lights on. These cards are ingenious, being composed of rows of number (each row identical)—the spacing & pattern of the holes tells everything imaginable about you. Well, anyway, to get back to the subject at hand.
I stood in a line for two hours, waiting to get my medical records, reading a collection of stories by Guy de Maupassaunt (?). I had gathered, from looking at the card, that I was to go aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ticonderoga. To make a long day short (which is easier to write about than do), I had to wait a total of eleven hours before I finally got my orders. I wish Lief could have been around while I frantically packed my sea bag; he would have died laughing, though I didn’t see the humor in it. After lugging that thing for six blocks (my arms are still sore), we caught a station bus to Pier 7, where loomed the monstrous bulk of the U.S.S. Ticonderoga—on one side of her, on the opposite side of Pier 7, lay the battleship Iowa, bristling with cannon & looking very formidable. On the other side, at the next pier, crouched the Valley Forge, another aircraft carrier.
Ships, for some reason, are referred to as "she"—if the Ti is a she, she is an amazon; a metal giant. Everywhere is metal—her veins & arteries are the passageways through which course hundreds of sailors like white corpuscles—her blood. Miles of pipes, tubes, hatches, switches, levers, ladders, wire; all making up her inner fibers. Her innards are her great engines & bilges.
She is alive—you can feel it in her decks—a throbbing & quivering that never ends. Below her landing-field flight deck are immense hanger decks, without planes at the moment, but showing the vastness of it by several power boats & launches (two larger than anything around home or the lakes—about 60’) stuck in one corner, & taking no more space than two corn flakes in a box of cereal.
Beneath the hanger decks is the labyrinth of quarters, passageways, offices, galleys & storerooms, Down here day & night is regulated only by the electric switches. Everything is both chaos & efficiency. I sleep in a room two levels beneath the hanger deck, not much larger than our living room which I share(d) with twenty-three other guys. Two feet above my rack was the ceiling, girders & pipes. Next to my head was a stainless-steel ladder, heavily hung with green steel battle helmets. Reminded me of a Christmas tree with odd ornaments. Since beginning the sentence where the pencil left off, I’ve moved to a much larger (comparatively) bunkroom.
There is only one set of racks four tiers deep (like carried-away bunk beds), & I was given the topmost of the four—I almost have to be a mountain climber to get up there.
We were supposed to leave for Philadelphia today, or so the scuttlebutt said—as usual it was wrong. Our agenda, as far as I can gather, is Philadelphia for a week, then down to Florida (that will be novel) for an undetermined time, & then on to the Mediterranean for eight months! We leave for the Med sometime in November & won’t return until the following July. In a way, I’m as excited as a kid with the prospect of going to a zoo; but then again I feel terrible—just think—the first Xmas away from home in 22 years! Oh, well, I’ll be saving you tons of money on phone calls anyway. Or I can call from Europe.
I put my car in storage last night--inside & insured at $10 a month. If I find I’ll be gone too long, I’ll see about sending it home. Incidentally, I’ve been assigned to strike for Aviation Storekeeper (don’t ask me what "strike for" means, ‘cause I don’t know; it means something to the effect that if I ever become rated, that’s the rate I’ll get.)
I hope it’s a good deal, but in the Navy you never can tell.
Word just came over the squawk-box that we’ll probably leave tomorrow. Oh, well----
There are several Japanese destroyers in port—real novel. Hah—I almost forgot—my address—it is
F.R. Margason, AN
U.S.S. Ticonderoga (CVA-14) –love that name
c/o F.P.O., N.Y., N.Y.